The Tragedy Boston Wants To Forget

**Warning for Graphic Pictures**

“We’ll meet again
Don’t know where, don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.
Keep smiling through, Just like you always do
‘Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away
So will you please say hello to the folks that I know?
Tell them it won’t be long. They’ll be happy to know 
That as you saw me go, I was singin’ this song…”

Vera Lynn, 1939

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Taken in the Cocoanut Grove the night of the fire

 

The year was 1942, and on a frigid November night, the Film District of Boston was bustling with life. Everyone wanted to spend the Saturday night out on the town, whether it was eating out with family or dancing the night away with a date. The Boston clubs were hopping with big band and lounge singers, filled to the brim with young military men in full regalia (WWII was the headlines of all newspapers), and none was more packed than the Cocoanut grove.

The Cocoanut Grove was filled far beyond capacity with revelers having a wonderful time, but by the end of the night nearly half of the them would be dead, and the city would be reeling from one of the most horrific events in Boston’s history.

An event that seems to have been lost with time.

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The Grove’s maître d’ who would announce famous guests to an excited crowd.

 

As I walked down Stuart street past the Wang and Wilbur theatres, I marveled at how busy this area was even on a frigid November weeknight. It was November 29th, and seventy five years and one day since one of the single greatest losses of life in a fire in US history. I was on my way to stand in the spot where it had happened. As I walked around the large Revere Hotel and onto Piedmont street, I marveled at how suddenly the sound of city life passed.

In this quiet Bay Village neighborhood, you would never know you were in the heart of Boston. There was not a soul around as I found the only markers to commemorate one of Boston’s most horrific tragedies.

 

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The first I noticed was a street sign for Cocoanut Grove Lane, formerly Shawmut Extension and renamed in 2013. The small street did not exist in 1942, as after the Grove was demolished the area was reconfigured.

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Map from before the condos were built and the street renamed

 

Currently, the majority of the Grove’s footprint rests beneath the Revere Hotel (formerly Raddison). Most of the rest is now covered by condominiums, but one can still stand on Cocoanut Grove Lane and be within the spot where the club once stood. I stood there myself.

There was significant controversy during the construction of the condominiums in 2014, regarding the second marker of the fire.

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The Cocoanut Grove. Erected by the Bay Village Neighborhood Association, 1993. In memory of the more than 490 people who died in the Cocoanut Grove fire on November 28, 1942. As a result of that terrible tragedy, major changes were made in the fire codes, and improvements in the treatment of burn victims, not only in Boston but across the nation. “Phoenix out of the Ashes” “This plaque crafted by Anthony P. Marra, youngest survivor of the Cocoanut Grove fire”

 

The memorial plaque was installed in 1993, and stood at approximately the spot where the infamous revolving door once was. For years it was the only reminder of the tragedy, despite the scope of its impact.

In 2014 the lot near the plaque, which had stood empty since the Grove was demolished, was purchased to erect luxury condominiums. The plaque was removed to keep it safe during construction, with the promise it would be reinterred afterward. However after only a few weeks, rumors of complaints from the new residents arose. According to some, they felt the plaque was too “sad” and was a constant reminder of a tragedy they wanted no part of. They also feared tourists seeking the plaque would loiter.

After a lot of back and forth, the plaque was eventually moved a short way down the street so it was no longer in front of the condos. The move hurt many who had intimate connections to the fire, but the urge to forget won out over the duty to remember.

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The Cocoanut Grove started its life in 1927 as a speakeasy, pioneered by gangland bosses and bootleggers. In the early thirties it was run by Charles “King” Solomon, until he was gunned down by members of a rival gang. Ownership passed to Solomon’s lawyer, Barney Welanskey, who saw great opportunity in the club scene when prohibition ended in 1933. He reimagined the club, modeling it after the well known Cocoanut Grove club in LA, hoping to to bring some Hollywood flair to the east coast. His vision paid off, and the Cocoanut Grove became one of the poshest places to be seen in Boston. Its legal occupancy was 460, but on nights like the 28th, the number of guests soared into the 1000 range.

Only 11 days previously Barney had unveiled the newest addition to the Grove, the Broadway Lounge, after annexing the building next door.

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In the VIP section of the Grove on the evening of the 28th sat cowboy movie star Buck Jones, feeling ill but urged to come out to a celebration by his manager. He was touring to promote a flick, and guests of the Grove craned their necks and chattered in excitement to get a glimpse of a real life celebrity.

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Buck Jones

 

The basement of the building was the cramped and dimly lit. Called the Melody Lounge, it was a favorite spot for young couples. Cooing singer and pianist Goody Goodelle was their entertainment for the evening. At about 10:15pm she was a few songs into her set when a small commotion broke out in the back corner of the lounge. There was a fire.

A few frequent guests and employees let out nervous laughter at the flames creeping up the paper palm tree decorations. This was far from the first time this had happened, and the tiny fires were always snuffed out quickly.

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Melody Lounge

 

Don Lauer, a Marine Private, sat enjoying the evening with friends when he realized this would not be like those other times. The fire shot quickly up to the ceiling, which was draped loosely with fabric. Recognizing the precarious situation, Don leapt up and pulled out his pocket knife, slashing and cutting at the fabric in an attempt to separate the burning bit from the rest and stop the spread.

In another world, Don could have been successful, and the patrons of the Melody Lounge could have laughed and cheered as the handsome marine saved the day. Goody would have begun singing once again, and upstairs, no one would have even known about the tiny, inconsequential fire.

But that was not what happened in our world.

Don worked hard but it wasn’t enough, and flames rushed in a wave across the ceiling of the lounge, sending the guests into panic. chairs were overturned and screams rang out as people flooded to the only exit they knew; the staircase from which they’d entered. Goody Goodelle and a few others dropped to the floor of the lounge to escape the intense heat above them.

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Goody Goodelle

 

As people flooded the staircase, panicked and shoving, they were met with an exit door. The only trouble was, it was welded shut.

Barney Welanskey had sealed off nearly every exit of the club in some way, as he felt people had been skipping out on their bills. Some had bars across them, some were hidden behind decorations and drapes, and one was even bricked up.

As patrons scrambled against the sealed door, those in front were crushed beneath the weight of the crowd. Falling one by one, others atop them, they became a writhing pile of bodies suffocating in thick black smoke.

As smoke funneled upstairs into the main room of the club, patrons in the dining room and seated at the Caricature Bar looked up in confusion. Before they had time to react, the fire below hit the main source of power for the Cocoanut Grove, and everyone was plunged into darkness.

Tables were overturned and dishes smashed as people ran for the exits they could no longer see. The obvious choice was the set of revolving doors at the front of the club, the way most had entered. As the mass of panicked people flooded against it, it became immovable. When some managed to slip out, the next few became trapped, squished in the doors and soon buried beneath others. The pile of bodies in front of the main entrance reached chest high.

Some people ran for a back exit, and some were chased by smoke around a corner into the Broadway Lounge, where 21 year old Coast Guardsman Clifford Johnson was seated with his date for the evening when panic ensued.

Once more, before most could react in any way to the chaos, another twist of fate occurred. In the main dining room, some patrons had managed to bust the back door open, and the sudden influx of oxygen to the starved fire led to an explosive fireball that rocketed through the club and into the Broadway Lounge. Now the entire Grove was engulfed in flames. Since the fire’s start, only five minutes had passed.

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In the chaos, Clifford lost his dates hand. He searched for her desperately, and in the process helped countless others out of the inferno. He ran back into the Grove nearly half a dozen times by some accounts, and on his final exit he collapsed to the ground outside with third degree burns over 50% of his body, some down to the bone. He later found out his date had already escaped.

Downstairs in the Melody Lounge, Goody and a few others, mostly employees, used rags soaked in water or urine to survive, as the smoke and fire was so intense it was nearly impossible to breath and would burn the inside of ones lungs. Those few who had not run to the stairs to escape the basement lounge would be some of the only ones from the Melody to survive. The rest lay in a charred pile in the staircase nearly waist deep. Don Lauer was among those that died.

Upstairs, sickly Buck Jones was overcome by smoke so fast he collapsed in own seat, laying against the table.

Employees of the Grove used their knowledge of the building’s layout to find alternative back exits. Some escaped through windows into a back alley, and some even hid inside the walk in fridges.

A few blocks away, several firefighters were responding to a car fire when they smelled smoke. Only two weeks previously, a horrific fire known as the Maverick Square Fire had claimed the lives of six of their own. As they hurried toward the source, they encountered a crowd of screaming and begging people, and the most popular club in Boston burning.

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The firemen worked as fast as they could, but the scene was chaos. As they tried to break open the revolving door, the second influx of oxygen led to a second fireball which incinerated the bodies jammed in the door, and killed anyone still alive within the mass. As the rescuers desperately tried to pull bodies out, limbs broke off in their hands.

Other rescue workers went around the other side of the building. Some encountered a man trapped in a small window he had broken partway through. They tried to pull him out but were unable, and soon the man was screaming in agony as he burned alive in front of them. The helpless men tried spraying him with hoses, but to no avail.

As the firemen fought the intense fire, their hoses were freezing to the ground, as the outside temperature dropped.

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As “survivors” were helped out of the fire, many gasped and collapsed to the ground. The intense shift between the immense heat inside and the freezing cold outside sent their bodies into shock. Many who had appeared uninjured died of pulmonary edemas before they even arrived at the hospital, or soon after. Most of those who were severely burned did not live long, but Clifford arrived at Boston City Hospital and was worked upon fast, receiving an experimental new antibiotic called Penicillin. He received many skin grafts, the first few sloughed back off of him, but they finally took and he survived.

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At the Grove, the fire was finally brought under control. The entire ordeal had lasted only 15 minutes.

Once the rescue workers got inside, they were met with a sight akin to hell on earth.

Dead bodies lay in piles everywhere, some burned so badly that there was nothing left but a blackened trunk. One woman was found dead in an interior phonebooth, with a phone still clutched in her hand. At the bar, the fire and fumes had overtook people so fast they hadn’t had time to leave their seats and still had drinks in their hands. In the VIP section, Buck Jones was found severely burned, barely alive. He was taken to the hospital where he lingered for days before he died.

In the wreckage, some survivors were recovered. They had only survived because they were buried under dead bodies which shielded them.

Fireman John Collins would recall years later, being one of the first into the Melody Lounge that night. He was shocked to see a beautiful woman sitting serenely at a table.

“W-what are you doing here?” He questioned, but the words had scarcely left him when he realized the woman was dead.

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Children lost their parents, and parents lost their children that night. Entire families were destroyed. As the hours passed, the death toll climbed to a staggering amount. The final agreed total was 492 lives.

The number was 32 more than the allowed occupancy of the building.

The youngest victim was 15 year old Elenor Chiampa.

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Bodies lined the street that first night. Local morgues were filled beyond capacity, and bodies were stored in nearby warehouses as a result.

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Military hats found within the burnt club

 

At the hospital as he recovered, hero Clifford Johnson and one of his nurses fell in love, and were later married. They moved to Missouri. In a cruel twist of fate, Clifford Johnson was in a terrible car wreck in 1957 and was trapped inside his jeep, where he burned to death. In some ways he was yet another victim of the Grove.

One of the other collateral victims of the Grove was Francis Gotterina. He lost his wife in the flames, and jumped to his death six weeks later.

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As the city reeled from the tragedy, the people began to seek answers. How could something like this have happened? How could it have been prevented? Who was to blame?

16 year old Stanley Tomaszewski told his story the next day. He was a busboy working in the Melody Lounge the previous night. A waiter had noticed that one of the lightbulbs over a booth had been unscrewed (perhaps to give the couple seated there more privacy) and Stanley had been ordered to go fix it. Stanley had difficulty seeing in the dark, so he lit a match to screw the bulb back in. He did so, then put out the match. According to him, he did not start the fire. But he hoped his story would help.

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The trouble was, other eyewitnesses confirmed that the fire had started in that same back corner, and the first flames had raced up the palm tree that Stanley had been under only moments before.

The press caught wind of the story, and someone to blame had been found.

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Stanley, who had been working to fund care for his sick mother, had become an easy villain to the story, a careless teen who had essentially murdered nearly 500 people.

Stanley conceded that it was possible his match was the culprit (What else could it have been?) and for years he was an outcast, literally spat on and harassed.

The authorities took pity on him and tried to clear his name, but Stanley’s life was never really the same.

Over the years, scientists and firemen would work together to try to discover the possible cause of the fire. Some felt the cause was a short circuit in the wall, based on the scorch marks behind Stanley’s palm tree. Others suggested that the fires cause was less important than the explanation as to ‘why’ it was so intense. One explanation was the use of flammable methyl chloride in the cooling units. The gas had replaced freon due to wartime shortage. Another culprit was the highly flammable and toxic decorations in the club. While burning they had released poisonous gases or melted and fell upon victims, intensifyini the death toll. And the most obvious safety concern of all was surely the six different exits to the club that had in some way been blocked or hidden by Barney Welansky.

Though the fire raised awareness and increased fire safety laws, the fact was it was already in violation of many laws already in place. Welansky had many important connections, all the way up to Boston’s Mayor Tobin who was a friend. These connections allowed him to run the club however he wanted, and thus put hundreds of people in danger.

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Welansky was tried and convicted of 19 counts of manslaughter, and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. He was pardoned 4 years into the sentence by the now Governor Tobin, due in part to his advance stage of cancer. He died only 9 weeks later, and was quoted as saying “I wish I’d died with the others in the fire.”

As far as settlements for the victims and their families, they only got about $150 when all was said and done.

In the years that followed the tragedy, many improvements were made in fire safety. Exit doors could no longer swing inward, revolving doors had to be flanked by regular doors and/or collapsible, exit signs had to be clearly visible and on a separate power source from the building so they stayed lit, and decorations had to be fire retardant.

Along with safety improvements, another positive outcome from the tragedy was the advancements it paved the way for in healthcare. Doctors learned much about burn treatment and successfully tested penicillin. This knowledge would be indispensable during the War years that followed. Added to this was studies and awareness in the fields of psychology, as the disorder PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) was rampant among Grove survivors. The first ever paper written on PTSD was on one such survivor.

Many of the children of survivors and rescue workers alike recalled severe repercussions from the fire. Some were never the same. Some developed phobias of crowds or cramped interiors. Some refused to talk about that night at all.

But despite all that was learned and all of the ripples outward from the tragedy, years later it lay nearly forgotten in Boston’s past.

The Titanic disaster got an award winning Hollywood movie and taught so many about the subject that it became a household name. But the Cocoanut Grove only got a plaque on the ground.

Some felt that it was because we did not respect and learn from history that 100 more innocent lives were needlessly lost in the Rhode Island Station Club fire of 2003. It was nearly a carbon copy of the Grove, 60 years later.

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When I visited the site, it was impossible to imagine the human suffering that had taken place there so long ago. But the most troubling part of it all seems to be the public’s willingness and eagerness to forget it ever happened.

Cocoanut Grove deserves a statue, it deserves a documentary, it deserves a Hollywood movie. It deserves to be taught, and remembered. Doing so is the only way to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.

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For more photos, click here 

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The Unsolved Murder of Karina Holmer

“I’ve got the old man’s car,
I’ve got a jazz guitar,
I’ve got a tab at Zanzibar,
Tonight that’s where I’ll be…”

In 1996 I was only about five years old. It was the year that the first Pokemon game came out, and the Nintendo 64 was released. Dolly the sheep was the first successful mammal clone, and Bill Clinton would secure his second term in office. In Texas, the 9 year old namesake of the Amber Alert was murdered.

In 1996 Karina Holmer thought she was living a dream. The young woman from a small village in Sweden had always had big dreams, and after winning the lottery, she used her winnings to move to America for a summer. The city life, night clubs, new kinds of people and places, a cultural explosion; Karina was ready for an adventure. Tragically, what she found was a nightmare.

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Karina decided that the best way to plan her trip was to become an Au Pair, a sort of nanny to families who would offer boarding and a stipend in return. Most Au Pair’s worked through agency’s which trained the women in childcare, secured visas, and screened employers. However Karina went a different route. She arrived in the US with no visa and fake ID in March.

She began working for a wealthy artist couple living in Dover Massachusetts. Frank Rapp was a commercial photographer, and his wife Susan was a painter. Frank was well off enough that he could afford a studio in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston. During the week Karina took care of the Rapp children and chores, but on the weekends she was free to travel into the city to party, and spend the nights at Frank’s studio. Friday and Saturday nights Karina would be downtown drinking and dancing until the wee hours of the morning. Friends and family back home in Sweden thought she was having the time of her life. The only indication otherwise was her sudden announcement to family that she would be cutting her American adventure short, and cryptic letter written to a friend in May; “Something terrible has happened. I’ll reveal more when I get home.” Her family believed Karina was returning home because she had tired of housework. Only her friend knew that something else was troubling Karina. But no one will ever know just what it was.

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A photo taken at Zanzibar in 1996

On June 21st Karina went out to a popular club at Boylston Place called Zanzibar. It was a prime hangout for young foreigners with fake IDs. She was seen several times by friends throughout the night, each time chronologically more intoxicated. Before close she was briefly passed out in the club bathroom, and was escorted out by a bouncer after the club cut her off. In the alley outside, Karina struck up a conversation with a local homeless man, whom she happily danced with. Then she was gone.

The next few hours became a hazy mix of possible sightings, as authorities would later try to track her journey. One friend claimed to have seen Karina get into a car with a group of men. Another said Karina had told them she was heading to a private party. Someone swore they saw her walking down Tremont Street in the twilight before dawn. Wherever Karina went that night, we know where she ended up. Her torso was found in a dumpster behind 1901 Boylston Street, sawed in half above the hip, wrapped in trash bags. It was only discovered because a man had ripped the bag while rummaging for cans on Sunday morning.

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The crime scene as it was investigated.

Karina’s body was naked and washed clean, even her makeup had been scrubbed off (perhaps an attempt to get rid of evidence). He neck showed signs of strangulation, and she had been neatly sawed in half with something like a circular saw, a straight cut other than a hiccup at her hipbone. That kind of cut would have been fairly easy; one would only have to cut through one bone, the spine. Her lower half was never recovered, and police considered the possibility it had been destroyed to hide evidence of a sexual crime or secret pregnancy. The only evidence left by the suspect was a single partial fingerprint inside the trashbag, and no matches were ever found.

Detective Tommy O’Leary immediately began investigating, talking to everyone and anyone Karina may have been with that night. It wasn’t long before he would realize it would be a case like no other, and it would haunt him forever.

One of O’Leary’s first leads came in the form of a bizarre subject, one of the last people to see Karina alive. Herb Whitten became known as “the man with the dog” after several people told the police they had seen Karina talking to a man who wore matching Superman shirts with his Great Pyrenees. Whitten told police that he enjoyed the attention that he got from women while he walked in the city, but that he knew nothing about Karina. He also had a good alibi: Whitten had been pulled over for speeding on his way home to Andover that night. It simply didn’t seem possible he would have had the time to have already dismembered a body and dumped it near Fenway. Whether he was involved or not Whitten may have taken the truth to his grave. He committed suicide only about a year later.

Excluding Whitten as a suspect, the police next began to look at Karina’s employer with more scrutiny. The rumor from other Au Pairs was that Frank was a sleazy guy, a “creep”. Neither Frank or his wife could provide a verifiable alibi for where they had been the night Karina was murdered, and both were increasingly hostile and uncooperative toward police. Even more suspiciously, Dover police were called to the Rapp residence for a completely different reason the following Monday. There was a fire in the dumpster on the property shared by Frank and neighbors. Boston police worked with Dover to collect samples from the charred rubbish, but none tested positive for blood or human remains. Perhaps it was just another of many strange coincidences.

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The green line is Boylston Street

It’s been over 20 years since Karina was murdered, and her case has long gone cold.

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Boston’s Mysterious Vanishing Men, part 2

To read part 1 please click here

To view an interactive map of all cases click here

A note from the author Cryptid/Elise:

It has been almost a year since I wrote a blog post called “Boston’s Mysterious Vanishing Men” and it has been an incredible journey for me since then. I have experienced heartbreak in talking more with loved ones of the men I wrote about, anxiety over sharing my work to a larger and larger audience, and pride in my readers and my city in working to find solutions to this bizarre problem. I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not have an answer, and I do not know what is really happening. I do not know if these water deaths are accidental or intentional, preventable or inevitable. But I believe that each of the men I write about has a story that deserves to be told, and that it just might help us stop these tragedies in the future. 

I apologize profoundly for taking so long to write another post. It has been a difficult year for me, with many personal and health related problems keeping me from investing the time that I believe these cases deserve. Finally feeling strong enough to delve back into this work, I bring to you a part 2 of “Vanishing Men” As you may notice, many of these cases occurred outside of Boston, but there are incredible connections and similarities. It is my hope that these cases combined with the others can start to piece together this puzzle more and more until perhaps some day the mystery is solved. I want to give a final reminder as you read however, that these are not merely “cases” but also individuals, people with loved ones. Please read and respond to these posts with utmost respect. Thank you.

The cases so far:

Jerald Gelb (44) 8/2001

John Daverio (49)  3/2003

Daniel Mun (20) 12/2003

David W. Crockett (45) 1/2004

Dustin Willis (26) 3/2007

John Pike (23) 6/2007

Neo Babson Maximus/Charles M. Allen Jr. (22) 10/2007

William Hurley (24) 10/2009

Eugene Losik (26) 2/2010

Justin Marshall (30) 6/2010

David Mark (24) 2/2011

Christopher Martin (24) 12/2011

Franco Garcia (21) 2/2012

D’Anthony Green (23) 7/2012

Pedro Colon-Rodriguez (69) 10/2012

Jonathan Dailey (23) 10/2012

Joseph A. Gage (32) 1/2013

Eric Munsell (24) 2/2014

Shilo Morgado (36) 8/2015

Josue Quispe (18) 10/2015

Dennis Njoroge (21) 11/2015

Zachary Marr (22) 2/2016

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Jerald Gelb had a Master’s degree in computer science and was a former employee at IBM. He suffered a mental breakdown after being let go from his job in his 30’s, and his family members suspected he was battling schizophrenia. On August 16th 2001 he showed up unexpected at his parents home in Brookline, Ma. He spent the night, but was gone by approximately 5am the next morning when his parents checked on him. Jerald was 40 when he went missing, wearing a red sweatshirt, and has not been heard from since. The area he disappeared from is very close to the Muddy River, a small offshoot of the Charles.

If you have any info on Jerald please call the Brookline Police Dept. at (617) 730-2222

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Daniel Mun was a 20 year old from Kirksville Missouri. He was a biology student at MIT and a member of a frat house. He was good at sports, particularly tennis, and was remembered as very friendly. Daniel went missing on December 5th 2003 at about 4am, and may have been intoxicated at that time. Daniel’s roommate recalled that he did not seem stressed or sad before his disappearance, though there was apparently a concerning note found in his computer suggesting a suicide was possible. Daniel’s body was found under the ice near the Harvard Bridge in March of 2004. His MIT ID was in his pocket, and he was wearing inline skates (not ice skates). Daniel’s death was ruled a suicide.

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David Wayne Crockett was a service tech at an auto shop in Wareham, MA. He was an avid mechanic and loved car racing and motorcycles. He went missing in January of 2004 after last being seen at a restaurant near the water of Buttermilk bay. Three months later on April 3 2004, his body was discovered under a dock at the Continental Marina only 100 yards away. The water had supposedly been frozen until recently and authorities said it appeared to have been in the water for some time, though the marina owner described the body as “very visible”. David’s death was ruled an accidental drowning.

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John Pike was a 23 year old Syracuse University graduate in Public Communications, where he made Deans List and honors society. He was an athlete and avid musician, the drummer for a band called Ra Ra Riot. In June 2007 his band had played a show and was attending an after party in Fairhaven MA. Several friends saw John step outside at about 3am, but were concerned when he did not return later. His girlfriend received a text from him around this time saying he loved her, but this was not unusual. The house backs up to a Buzzards Bay beach, but Pike was notorious for his dislike of water and the tide was out. Later on that day at about 3pm John’s phone was found in shallow water on the west side of Wilbur Point. The next day his body was found about 200 yards away in 7 feet of water. Police said no foul play was suspected. Ra Ra Riot was enjoying growing success and John was passionate about the band.

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Charles M. Allen Jr. was a senior psychology major at Umass Dartmouth. In his past he had been a relatively famous online gamer, well known for his abilities in the  Valve game Half-Life. His passions shifted in college toward Tennis, and his dream was to become a professional player. “Charlie” had recently legally changed his name to “Neo Babson Maximus” perhaps in a effort to have a ‘famous persona’. His loved ones still knew him as Charlie, and insisted his name change was unrelated to his disappearance or mental illness. Charlie suffered from Bipolar disorder, though until not long before his disappearance it was well managed with medication. The trouble seemed to begin when Charlie’s sister contacted him asking him why he had deleted his facebook. Charlie became alarmed and insisted he had not. He told her that he believed he was in danger after sending some emails to “important people” and that she needed to be careful. He also said that the “answer” was in the “periodic table” then hung up. He later left a voicemail on his parents phone that sounded as if he was running through the woods. He was not heard from again until several days later when he reportedly broke into the second floor of a strangers house at 3am on October 13th 2007. He seemed confused and told the stranger he thought he was at his friends house, then he hurried off. Charlie’s car was found abandoned at his University’s parking lot, his backpack was found on Slocum Rd. and his shoes were found off Chase Rd.

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His computer at home had been completely wiped. He has never been found.

If you have any info on Charlie please contact the Dartmouth Police at (508) 910-1700

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Justin Marshall was a star high school football player, went to West Point, and graduated from Notre Dame. He then graduated from Suffolk Law with honors, and was working at Boston City Hall in Mayor Menino’s legal department. In June of 2006 Justin was out with friends in the Charlestown neighborhood on Pier 6, when the others in the group realized he was missing around 1am. His body was found in the water nearby. There has been little follow up to indicate a cause of death or other info.

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Christopher Martin lived in New Bedford and worked at Barden’s Boat Yard in Marion. He was 24 years old  and intoxicated when he was last seen in Downtown New Bedford at 1:30 am on December 17th 2011. His girlfriend reported him missing at 3:45 am. His body was discovered in the water behind a seafood restaurant the next morning, tangled in several life preservers. Authorities found this suspicious, as it appeared that someone may have tried to help Christopher. The stairs to the water near where he was found had been ripped up. No further information is known at this time.

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D’Anthony Green was a 23 year old student at Suffolk University. He was very athletic and active, as well as artistic, enjoying everything from photography to skydiving. Because he lived alone, the exact date he went missing is unknown. He was found in the water, having been there ‘several days’, wearing his running pants under his regular pants, as if he had been coming or going from a work out. D’Anthony was a very capable swimmer with no history of suicidal tendencies, leaving his family suspicious about his death. Despite this, police ruled his death a suicide.

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Pedro Colon-Rodriguez had immigrated from Puerto Rico to Boston. He had five children with his late wife, whose death hit him hard. In his recent years he had become a heavy drinker, and spent most of his time with Cambridge’s homeless community. He was well liked for his giving nature. In early October 2012 Pedro went to Cambridge Hospital for treatment of a fall related injury. He was not seen again until his body was discovered in the Charles River monday the 8th. He was still wearing his hospital bracelet. Pedro was found the day before Jonathan Daily, leading to his case being largely underreported.

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Joseph A. Gage was a 32 year old New Hampshire native with a degree in Mathematics from University of Hartford. He was athletic, a musically gifted guitar player, and loved to travel. On January 1st 2013 at about 3am, witnesses reported seeing Joseph crossing the Harvard Bridge with another man. Halfway across they hailed a cab, but instead of getting in Joseph apparently intentionally hurled himself over the rail of the bridge and into the Charles. Despite an intense search and theoretically knowing the exact location of the body, Joseph was not recovered until March 14th. One site described his death as a “tragic accident”.

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Shiloh Morgado was from Vallejo California, and lived in Westborough Ma. He had two children. Shiloh was known by many to be a “tech wizard” and was happiest while doing things like building his own computers. His body was discovered near Quincy Yacht Club on August 30th 2015, at around 6am. No foul play was suspected.

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Already the similarities between these cases and those in the previous post may be jumping out at you. You’ll notice in this group several technologically gifted men, several musicians, and many very intelligent individuals.

There are multiple men missing in a cluster around Buzzard’s Bay that I found intriguing.

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Again, as far as I can tell, the locations of these similar deaths are not sporadic, and do not happen along every coast or waterway. There seems to be several “hot spots” in Massachusetts alone, indicating that whom or what is causing the deaths may have a sort of “territory”. Whether it is a single migrating cause or two separate causes I cannot say.

I have charted the cases I have researched so far here to better illustrate the cluster areas.

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As most of Eastern Massachusetts is surrounded or in close proximity to water, it stands to reason that other cities should be seeing similar deaths if this was a “normal” occurrence, particularly areas with high populations of young people and bars (cities such as Salem and Provincetown come to mind). And if this was a problem related to college aged drinkers, surely students in the western MA college areas have many lakes and rivers that could pose dangers?

The average temperature of Boston Harbor varies greatly between October and March (the peak months for disappearances). Here are some stats:

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Even at it’s coldest, Boston’s water never dips below freezing point at 32°, nor does it come close to the estimated 28° of the Atlantic when the Titanic sank. Death from hypothermia in freezing water can happen in as little as 15 minutes, but even in that small window it seems that someone could be crying out for help or trying to climb out of the water.

Normally alcohol in the system increases ones chances of hypothermia, but there is evidence to suggest that sometimes the exact opposite is true. Charles Joughin survived the 28° water after the Titanic for an astounding two hours until a lifeboat picked him up. Joughin was an avid drinker, carrying a flask with him everywhere, and said that thanks to his intoxication he barely felt the cold.

While this may be an unusual case, it does make one think. I have never heard of a case of a drunk college kid falling off a pier, climbing back out, laughing it off and going home to warm up. (If this has happened to you or someone you know, please let me know in the comments.) My only other thought on the matter is that perhaps in many of the cases the men suffer shock from the coldness of the water almost immediately as they hit it, causing them to gasp deeply and inhale water, speeding up the drowning process. Still, it seems unlikely that so many men would not survive the critical moments after entering the water, as hypothermia is a slower process.

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I hope you have found part 2 of my research interesting and informative, and I hope you join me in the comments for discussion! Thank you.

 

 

Some More Thoughts on Zachary Marr

“Empty handed I entered the world and barefoot will I leave it”

The words were scrawled on yellow columns, one word to each, which were lining the walkway I traveled down. The graffiti seemed particularly fitting for the occasion. I was walking down a path to the place where Zachary Marr had died.

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The quote was a shortened, bastardization of a quote by a Japanese Monk, Kozan Ichikyo. He wrote it the day that he died in 1360. The full version is

“Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going —
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.”

The winding path sandwiched between TD Garden and the Zakim bridge was presumably the same as the one Zach had walked just a few weeks before. I tried to imagine what he was thinking or seeing on that bitterly cold February night. Had he also read the words along the posts? Or were those written sometime after he had gone into the water? The sidewalk, if one followed it, led to a wide area directly beneath the Zakim, where the Charles River’s salty water lapped quietly at the cement footings.

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It was an almost pleasant area by the light of day, a secret seeming place. Across the water to the right, one of the State Police buildings abutted the water, their patrol boats docked about only a few hundred feet from where Zach Marr had been that night. Despite the location, no one except the cameras attached to the bridges underbelly had seen what happened. Or at least, no one that we know of. For a reason we still cannot understand, Zack seemingly walked to this place, then along a catwalk under the bridge that runs parallel to the train tracks, separated by a fence.

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The catwalk ends in a dead end, while the train tracks continue across a steel beam bridge.

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Zach then apparently (according to reports of the cctv footage which has not been released) climbed up onto the railings by the water, and stepped off into the darkness.

I would give nearly anything to see that footage. Not for any sick pleasure or macabre entertainment; I suffered from nightmares for some time about Zach. In fact, the idea of seeing the video fills me with a sense of unrivaled dread. But something in me needs to see it, in some strange way. Maybe I feel like I will learn something I couldn’t understand before? Maybe I believe I will feel somehow vindicated? What was he wearing when he went over that railing? Was he moving clumsily, drunkenly? Or in the same surefooted, trancelike state I had seen on so many other eerie cctv videos of similar cases? Did it look like a simple accidental slip? Did it look like a resolute suicide? And even if I had these answers, what would they mean?

As I walked along the length of the catwalk I noticed the signs of homeless people’s camps; beds made of old blankets and cardboard, snack wrappers and cups, even some articles of clothing that could have been anyones. (Zach’s? Someone who was there that night? If he was somehow murdered, a suspect?)

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The weather was warmer now, more bearable, survivable. There was probably no one else around the night Zach was here. It had been the coldest night of the year in Boston in recent memory; hypothermia could happen in only a short time and most of the cities homeless population would have had to seek shelter in more protected places. Still, I wondered if the police had tried talking to any of the regulars around North Station. I doubted it.

For most people Zach’s death was quickly accepted as just another accident. Just another drunk college age boy who wandered off into the water. I of course have difficulty accepting that. That theory leaves too many unanswered questions, and is simply too similar to the hundreds of other cases like it. I feel in my gut that something else happened that night, that there are still more puzzle pieces that need to be collected and fitted together before we can understand what.

Did you know any of these people?

I am reaching out to the public for information on a list of people who have either gone missing or died in Massachusetts. If you knew any of them and can give me any info, even if it’s just to tell me you do not want them included in my investigations, please reach out to me. The list is comprised of people that might fit with my previous investigated cases, and most I could find very little info about.

Jerald Gelb (40) Aug. 16 2001

David W. Crockett (45) April 3 2004

Daniel Mun (20) Dec. 5 2004

John Pike (23) June 2nd 2007

Charles M. Allen Jr. (22) Oct. 13 2007

Justin Marshall (30) June 6 2010

Christopher Martin (24) Dec. 17 2011

D’Anthony Green (23) July 30th 2012

Joseph A. Gage (32) Jan. 1 2013

Shilo Morgado (36) Aug. 30 2015

If you can tell me about any of these men, or if you knew someone else that you feel might have been a victim of the Boston Drownings, please comment or message/contact me. I will keep any info you want private. Thank you.

The Haunted Frequency

On February 25th 2016 I was awoken abruptly from my sleep at about 3am. I couldn’t identify at first what woke me, all I knew was that I had an overwhelmingly bad feeling. It didn’t take me long to realize that a thunderstorm was raging outside. It was quite loud, and the lightning lit up my entire room in a way I have never encountered before. Despite this, I felt very sure that it wasn’t the noise or light that had woken me. Instead I felt it was the sickening sense of dread that inexplicably hung over me. I have never been disturbed by thunderstorms before; on the contrary I have always found them exciting, sitting on my porch growing up and watching them roll in. But on this early morning something seemed very wrong. I got out of bed and stood in my room uncertainly, trying to decide what to do. Now on top of the unexplained fear other symptoms were emerging: nausea, heart palpitations. Soon the feeling of panic was smothering, and it seemed to be filling my room to the point that some part of my brain begged me to run away, to flee outside into the storm. Luckily I had an epiphany after remembering something I had recently learned, and I fought the urge. Then suddenly, the feeling was gone as abruptly as it had come. The storm quieted, the thunder became more distant. I slipped back into bed and fell asleep wondering what the hell had just happened to me.

The February 25th storm was pretty severe for the Boston area. It brought hurricane force winds recorded at up to 76mph, knocked power out for thousands, and downed many trees. But I think it also caused another phenomenon that few may be aware of.

Sound is measured in frequency of waves. This chart gives an idea of who can hear what.

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Humans have a mid range of audible hearing. But just because we can’t hear other frequencies doesn’t mean they aren’t there. And that means they can still effect us. Infrasound is a very low range of frequency, anything below 30 HZ. That means the waves are farther apart. Giant animals like elephants and blue whales use infrasound to communicate, possibly as more of a ‘feeling’ in their bodies than an actual sound. It’s hard of course for humans to try to imagine something they are literally incapable of experiencing. But some humans can experience infrasound in a different way.

Because of infrasound’s frequency it can effect our bodies. In the 1980s an engineer named Vic Tandy was working late at the Coventry University Laboratories, long rumored to be haunted. Suddenly he noticed a ghostly gray blob in his peripherals. He looked to it quickly, but it had vanished. Not one to be easily spooked, Vic set out to find a scientific explanation for the hauntings. He noticed that materials he was working with were vibrating, and he got the idea to look into the possibility of low frequency sound waves. Sure enough he found the culprit in the shape of an old fan in the lab, near his desk in the direction he had seen the blob. Though ‘silent’ to him, it was giving off 18.98 HZ sound waves. That frequency happens to be very close to the resonating frequency of the human eyeball, and explains the bizarre distortions in vision. The waves, which were almost exactly the length of the lab, also explained people who got uneasy feelings there in general. After turning off the fan, a weight seemed to be lifted from the space, and work could be continued as usual.

In 2003 Richard Lord, an acoustic scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in England, set out to further explore the effects of Infrasound. He and his colleagues used a concert hall of test subjects, and added occasional infrasound into the performances without informing the guests of when.  22% of concert goers identified an increase in negative emotions during the parts of the show where infrasound was present. Complaints included unease, nausea, sorrow and panic. It seemed to illustrate that not everyone is effected the same by infrasound, and some may feel it’s effects more strongly.

Many things both natural and man made can cause infrasound. Whales, elephants, volcanos, nuclear bombs, and yes, even intense thunderstorms, can cause infrasound. One of the big complaints against wind turbine construction argues that the massive structures can cause infrasound that will effect surrounding communities. Infrasound is even used by the government to monitor nuclear activity in other countries. It is possible that infrasound is what warns many animals of oncoming natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Author Donnie Eichar believes that infrasound caused by a Karman Vortex Street could have been the cause of the untimely deaths of the Dyatlov hikers of Russia. A Karman Vortex Street is a bizarre phenomenon in fluid dynamics in which air/water/etc moves around a rounded or even object in a way that causes swirling vortices.

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These vortices can gain incredible speed and power, and today engineers and architects design structures with this in mind, making sure to add spirals, fins, or uneven sides to structures to prevent a KVS.

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As for the Dyatlov hikers, the mountain they were camping at the base of had an evenly rounded top, and some believe that if wind hit the mountain just right, it could have created these tornado like vortices. Hearing a roaring tornado bearing down on you would surely terrify anyone, but would it be enough to terrify the hikers out of their tent into certain death toward the roaring itself? Possibly, if the vortices were creating infrasound. The panic caused by the infrasound could have made the hikers irrational enough to flee their tent, improperly clothed, into the subzero night. I can attest to encountering that same inexplicable urge, fought back only by my realization that I was likely experiencing an explainable natural phenomenon. The hikers would have had no knowledge of infrasound or Karman Vortex Streets. They had always survived based on their instincts, which were now screaming at them to evacuate their tent.

The theory makes a lot of sense, more than any other put forth. Though it would have had to have been a bizarre set of coincidences to lead to the final deadly outcome, sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.

But if all of this is true, then hasn’t it essentially been proven that ghosts aren’t real, just products of low frequency sound waves resonating the human body? Well not quite. Infrasound has been located in several ‘haunted’ sites, but certainly not all. I will always maintain that the paranormal aspects of our world are simply things that haven’t been identified yet by science. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in ghosts of course. But it does mean that I am also very excited by the idea of discovering a frequency that resonates eyeballs into seeing ghosts!

Have any of you possibly experienced Infrasound? Let me know in the comments!

 

Boston’s Mysterious Vanishing Men (Follow Up)

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I want to start off by thanking everyone for the immense amount of interest and support that they have shown in the days since publishing my Boston’s Mysterious Vanishing Men blog post. I never expected it to go so viral, and the response has been surreal.

I have been contacted in various ways by friends and family of some of the men who’s stories were shared in that post, which was incredibly humbling. That being said, I want to reach out to those loved ones to tell them that if there is anything I have written that they wish me to change or omit, please contact me to do so. I have already been asked to do so and readily obliged. The last thing I want to do is cause more pain for those loved ones. I have NEVER stopped viewing these men as people. They are not just cases or statistics to me. They are individuals with stories, and in researching them for so many hours I have grown attached to them.

I have also been sent hundreds of stories of similar cases from across America, some even begging me to investigate. Unfortunately, I am all too aware of these other cases. The reason I chose to focus on Boston was because it is my home, and the place I am familiar with. But I also stuck to Boston because looking into the rest of the cases across the U.S. would probably consume the rest of my life. If you know of similar cases in your hometowns, I urge you to try to make your city safer in ways similar to my plans, which I will discuss shortly.

I have been asked a couple of times now what my goals or motives for this investigation are. All I have ever wanted to do is highlight cases that I have found interesting, to call them into question in case justice still needs to be sought, and to stop similar events from occurring in the future. I wanted to raise awareness to keep others safe. But I also want to try to relieve the stigma surrounding young men drinking and dying. For the cases in which that may apply, I want to remind people that everyone makes mistakes in their life. But these men should not have died, and their deaths were preventable.

Which leads to my next point: Where do we go from here?

My next goal is a multi-step plan to make the city safer. I am working with Someone who is drafting a letter for local bars along the water, asking them for safer and more conscientious business practices when serving alcohol. I will also be contacting several people in power asking for improvements to safety along the harbor. As it stands, the area near Long Wharf where several of the men went missing or were found dead is considerably unsafe. I want the installation of better guardrails, better lighting, more surveillance cameras, and hopefully even the hiring of several night guards trained in water rescue and CPR.

If these cases truly come down to men falling in the water, why shouldn’t we be doing everything possible to prevent it?

Now, there is the chance that these are not merely coincidences. As many of my readers have postulated, there is a chance that some of these men were killed. I have been overwhelmed by the eagerness to try to get to the bottom of the mystery (encouraging curiosity into the unknown was my intention of this blog!) and by the sleuthing taking place in the comments! I wanted to foster a place where people could discuss freely, so I tried to publish as many of the comments as possible. However, there have been a few which I have not felt comfortable allowing, mostly ones which speculate on personal facts on the individual men. I do not think that such unfounded speculation is helpful at this juncture, and furthermore I don’t want to offend loved ones of these men. The second kind of comment I have not been allowing are ones which try to create a profile of the ‘killer’.

While I appreciate the enthusiasm, I do not think this should be attempted by anyone but professionals, nor do I think we have enough info at this time to create a successful profile. My greatest fear is that this will turn into a witch hunt. I do not want to cause a hysteria that will result in hurting innocent people. So please refrain from trying to pin blame on a certain kind of person (uber drivers, truckers, etc.).

What needs to happen instead is everyone coming together to make Boston, or their own cities, safer! Everyone needs to use the buddy system. No one should drink to excess. If you feel uneasy, trust your gut. If you see something, say something! If you notice an intoxicated person, get them help! If we maintain vigilance, whatever is happening to these men will stop, one way or another.

In the coming weeks there may be petitions to sign and letters to write, so I hope that all of you that have shown such passion for these cases will be there then as well. It is only by working together that we can invoke change, and thanks to all of your sharing and raising awareness, that is now a very real possibility!

So thank you again everyone for helping me share these men’s stories.

-Elias Jaeger (CryptidAntiquarian)